Benchmarking and development of webGIS in Ontario: implications for public use in planning
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Governments use the Internet as another means to offer services to the public. One such service is to deliver GIS over the Internet, also known as webGIS. While some Ontario municipalities provide webGIS services, its level of deployment across Ontario is unknown. Further, the mechanisms behind implementation and its effects on public engagement in planning issues are uncertain. This thesis attempts to answer some of these questions. All known Ontario municipal websites were surveyed to determine the level of webGIS provision. These webGIS were then benchmarked using a set of criteria from four categories (Accessibility, Data Availability, Functionality, Presentation/Utilities). A secondary set of criteria was also used to analyze related areas about webGIS provision. Interviews were conducted with nine municipal officials about the development and implementation of their municipality’s webGIS. Issues discussed include rationales, funding, implementation, webGIS technology, data issues, positive effects, obstacles to development, and user effects. Of the 445 Ontario municipalities, 41 offered webGIS services to their community. The municipal webGIS showed a wide range of services from basic visualization to more advanced editing tools. The scores within each category and from the secondary criteria were discussed. The interviews revealed a variety of reasons for developing and implementing webGIS. The major positive effect from webGIS was an increase in efficiency for municipal officials and greater access to municipal data for everyday users. Municipal webGIS has benefited both municipal employees and public users as an information tool. However, further research was required on adapting techniques for two-way interaction into municipal webGIS. Finally, this thesis offers recommendations to municipalities on effective ways to implement a municipal webGIS system as well as important issues to consider during implementation.